While someone only dreaming of sunny Spain, NURE’s students can try to live in this beautiful country and to learn what European education means in own practice. I was able discovering this from my own experience. In 2019 due to the European ERASMUS+ student mobility programme I went to Spain where I studied at the University of Jaen for 6 months.
How it started?
A great desire, good marks in the score book, knowledge of the language (English and German in my case), a standard package of required papers – these are all you need to participate in the ERASMUS+ mobility programme. One of the most important documents which should be mentioned is a Motivation Letter where you explain why you want to become a student of Spanish University. I advise to write essentially and from the heart, don’t use the template from the Internet. Be prepared for an interview and for the fact that you will have to go to the General Consulate of Spain in Kiev in order to get Spanish student visa. In addition to the usual set of documents you will need an invitation of the host institution (it will be sent if your application is approved). All documents must be translated into Spanish.
ERASMUS+ programme is built so that you will not be left alone with emerging questions and problems in a foreign country. The ESN (ERASMUS Student Network) branch works in the city where you come. The staff of this organization will help you to adapt in a foreign country.
What’s it like living in Andalusia?
So, after keeping all the formalities, a 5 hour flight from Boryspil to Madrid I came to the capital of Spain. From there I had a 5 hour journey in a comfortable bus. 4 my friends and me were sent to Jaen – province of southern Spain, in the eastern part of the autonomous community of Andalusia.
Jaen is a cozy clean city where life flows calmly and quietly. Nobody hurries anywhere and there is no fuss. There is a feeling that life is slowing down. You quickly adapt in this environment and start living in the same slow rhythm. From two till five o’clock everything tails off. It is time of siesta. Everyone is relaxing though there is no heat in the street in December. You slowly get used to the fact that impossible to buy the products at 3 o’clock in the day, get used to the local habits and start chatting with shopkeepers and neighbors.
Jaen is a not too big city but very beautiful. I quickly found new friends. I had a fun multinational company consist of Spaniards, guys from Turkey, Japan, Belarus, Russia and France. We loved going up the hill with Santa Catalina Castle which is a great viewing point where you can enjoy breathtaking views of the city and its surroundings. If you are lucky to get to Jaen, I advise you to visit the Cathedral – one of the most magnificent Catholic cathedrals. I also recommend seeing the Royal Dominican Monastery and the ruins of the ancient city wall of Jaen.
Language peculiarities and difficulties of translation
In Spain, you will rarely meet a person who speaks and understands Russian (and moreover Ukrainian). Not so many Spaniards speak English. The main language of communication is Spanish, but each province has its own peculiarities of dialect and pronunciation. In Andalusia, everyone talks pretty fast with a specific accent, swallowing the endings. Therefore, even if you speak Spanish then understand little at the beginning. Only a few weeks later you begin to realize that people are trying to explain to you in the street and shops.
Teachers have a great experience teaching foreign students that’s why they understand the language problem well. They are always ready to repeat the words several times so that the student understands the meaning of the phrase.
Study in Spanish
The teaching system of Spain differs from the Ukrainian one. Students are given more freedom. Much attention is paid to self-education.
Teaching is mainly in the Spanish Language. Some courses are offered in English but the variety of such subjects is less. Student personally composes the schedule and list of courses. However you can always look in any lecture.
Teachers (not all, naturally) are enthusiasts of their business. Their attitude to students is kindly and friendly. Just during the lecture you can ask a question and get an answer. Among my favorite teachers is a teacher of computer graphics who tried to convey the essence of his subject to every student. Returning to Ukraine, I continue to correspond with him on Facebook ☺.
Accommodation and financial support
Jaen University provides foreign students with accommodation very seldom. That’s why we rented an apartment. We lived for three. The apartment has 5 rooms, kitchen, bathroom, hallway. In each room there was a bed, a small table, electric cooking top, a microwave, a toaster in the kitchen as well as a set of tableware and kitchen utensils. There was a TV, a sofa and a large table in the living room. We paid 150 Euros per person for this apartment that is quite cheap.
Winter in Spain is quite cold (especially at night) but houses are not equipped with central heating. We “warmed” by electric fireplaces and plaids which were gladly provided by the owners.
The Erasmus+ program grant (€ 800 per month) is sufficient (with a rational approach) to pay for apartment, purchase products, travel around the country and even abroad. The grant is transferred to a local bank card which issued by bank branch located at the university.
Leisure and Travel
Indeed, student life in Spain is not just study. During 6 months of my staying in this country my friends and I visited several times Madrid, Cordoba, Granada, Málaga, etc., bathed in the Mediterranean Sea in Barcelona, traveled to Portugal and visited the “edge of the world”.
Spaniards are sociable people. In the evenings, they go to cafes, bars, pubs where they noisy discuss the events of the day and of the world, laugh and simply talk. We also often get together to relax with the company or just walking the streets of the city.
To summarize I can say that education within mobility is an invaluable and very fruitful experience. It helped me to see new places, to find new friends (which I can visit) and to obtain new knowledge. From my experience (which I want to repeat again) I can only advise: do not be afraid of difficulties, believe in yourself and apply!